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Facing the future with confidence

In the final of this four-part series, features writer ANGELA YEOMAN wraps up the stories of rangatahi [young people] transitioning from Mākoura College and compares 2023 with 1980, where this series started.

Mindelan Keladry’s story

Mindelan Keladry’s first and second names come from the Tamora Pierce fantasy series her mother was reading when she was born. Mindelan describes herself as goal oriented, persistent, and stubborn. She is also dysgraphic, which distorts her ability to write, and has ADHD, which reduces her ability to focus. She fights back against her conditions by making plans and sticking to them.

“I’m probably on the autism spectrum,” she says, “and I’m using it to my advantage.”

Leaving school with UE and NCEA Level 3 including an anticipated endorsement in Biology, Mindelan intends to follow her passion for science. Her goal is to do a Bachelor of Science majoring in neuroscience in Otago, followed by a Masters and PhD at Auckland.

“It’s about eight or nine years of study, all up. My primary interest is in neuroplasticity,” she says, which is the ability of neural networks in the brain to change, grow, and reorganise. Mindelan is fascinated by the fact that the brain can adapt to phantom pain and to the existence of prosthesis.

“If you lose a thumb, for example, and have a prosthetic thumb, the brain can start feeling it like it’s your own.”

The Neuroplasticity Lab in Cambridge, England, is where Mindy hopes to end up in 10 years’ time, with her qualifications completed. To begin with, however, Mindelan intends to take a gap year and earn enough money to pay for the first year of flatting in Otago. Because she was pushed up a year at school, taking a gap year is also an opportunity for her boyfriend to finish college, so they can then go down to Otago together.

Currently, Mindelan works part-time for Dominos in Carterton and hopes she might be able to work there full-time during her gap year.

She’s not religious, but she’s not atheist either.

“It would be presumptuous to ignore the concept of religion, but there’s no proof with which I can align myself.”

Could she be partnered or married in 10 years’ time? Maybe. Children? Unlikely.

Qeasa’s story

Art is Qeasa’s favourite subject, and she’ll leave Mākoura College with NCEA Level 3 in art. She also enjoys maths, which she puts down to the teacher. “He’s easy to understand and is easygoing as a person.”

The thing Qeasa enjoys the most about school is her friends. “I love hanging out with my friends and seeing them every day.”

From the Philippines, Qeasa’s dad came to New Zealand first, in 2014, and then brought out the family. She has four brothers and one sister. They came to New Zealand for “better schools, better jobs, more opportunities.”

Although she had almost no English when she arrived, you’d not know it now: Qeasa speaks English fluently. But she says that “the New Zealand accent was hard for me to understand at first”.

While at Mākoura College, Qeasa has had the opportunity to do work experience at Lansdowne Retirement Village, working one day a week for 10 weeks. She read to, walked, and pushed the wheelchairs of residents. It’s given her a taste of what it’s like to work in the health care industry.

“It’s an option for me, after school finishes,” she says. Another option is training in doing nails. “I love the creativity and the colour involved.”

Qeasa describes herself as kind, friendly, very organised, and Christian. Her 10-year dream is to work for herself [“maybe a nail business”], maybe in Christchurch. Her friends are moving down there, so she might go too.

As for settling down and having children, she says it’s a big responsibility. “Maybe I’ll think about children in my early 30s, but not before then.”

Billie’s story

“I’ll be staying close to family,” Billie says, when asked what she’ll be doing once she leaves Mākoura College.

The oldest of seven children in a blended family, Billie loves family and cooking.

“I’m going to UCOL-Te Pūkenga to do a Level 4 cooking course.” She particularly loves cooking chicken and can see herself starting her own business. “I need to go at my own pace,” Billie says. A food truck offering chicken tacos might be the go.

With credits under her belt at all NCEA Levels, Billie’s best courses at college are Food Tech and Woodwork – she loves being hands-on. She has lots of favourite teachers. Miss Pilling, the outdoor education teacher, gets a special mention.

And Billie loves sport, particularly netball. “I’m a good goalkeeper.”

Billie describes herself as creative, always positive, willing to learn, and a hard worker. Her grandmother was her best friend but has passed. God is someone she believes in and someone she can talk to. Friends are extremely important.

“I have friends from Mākoura College, from intermediate, and even from when I was very young,” Billie says.

She has no intention of being married or of having children in 10 years, although she’s willing to entertain the idea she might have a partner by then.

Merekara’s story

Merekara [Rangitane o Wairarapa and Ngāti Maniopoto] has big plans, including addressing social injustice. Her 10-year dream is to be married and living overseas with a well-paying job and, maybe, even a passive income.

But first, she’s leaving Mākoura College with NCEA Level 3 with a merit endorsement overall and a gap year is planned, with the expectation she’ll work that year in hospitality.

“I already work part-time as a waitress and barista and, when I turn 18, I’ll get my Manager’s Certificate [Alcohol] so I can work in pubs and restaurants.”

Merekara wants to save enough to be comfortable when she goes to university. It’s generally four years to study law, and she has her eyes on Waikato University or, alternatively, Canterbury. She wants to major in indigenous studies and learn te reo Māori thoroughly. And she’d like to work for the Ministry of Justice.

“I have a passion for Māori history and for addressing the impacts of injustice and colonisation,” Merekara says.

Her boyfriend is a welder who intends to train in underwater welding. And they both want to travel before they settle down. Having hospitality experience could be useful for that.

Merekara says she’s confident in who she is. She considers all sides of any issue, including who is impacted and how, before she comes to a view.

“I’m a futures thinker and problem solver with a strategic brain,” she says.

Merekara is a student representative on the school’s Board of Trustees.

Wrapping up

The year 2023 is very different to 1980 with respect to the labour market, employer expectations, opportunities and choices, and employee expectations. Some things remain constant, however.

There’s the importance of finding your passion and your identity as a young person, and being true to that if you are to succeed in the transition from school – and Mākoura College teachers have always played a hugely important role in helping their students discover who they are.

There’s the role of a supportive family, community, friends and, for some, faith, to help give rangatahi the resilience and the mental health needed to weather tough times and knockbacks. And there’s the importance of having plans and back-up plans, so that leaving school is not a walk into the wilderness.

For students who do feel like they’re facing the wilderness, Wairarapa’s Youth2Work team, based at REAP Wairarapa, can help rangatahi transition into meaningful employment and pathways. A second REAP team [Ngā Pūmunawa Tūpuna] works with rangatahi on work readiness and pathways within the context of tikanga, whanaungatanga, and whakapapa.

The Times-Age thanks the students who shared their stories and wishes them all the very best on their future journeys.

Angela Yeoman is a features writer for the Wairarapa Times-Age, a social researcher, and an author. Visit praxeum.org.

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